I can honestly say that I feel forever altered after the experience of this class and by experiencing a broad survey of Godard’s work. Viewing these films has been a practice in translation not only through the image but within the French language as well. I have altered between reading the text quickly and listening concurrently and then when sheer exhaustion sets in, I read for a time and then eventually I listen and read concurrently again. In high school I studied French with an incredible teacher, who forever impressed me with his dedication and intense perfectionism towards the language- so much so that it was a challenge to freely communicate without constant self-critique over pronunciation and grammatical errors. On the weekends small groups of us would pile into his small cabin and watch French films (I attended a boarding school where most teachers [including my mother who taught there] lived on campus). It is worth noting that this was pre-internet accessibility in an isolated area of Northern Michigan. I realize now that this time left me with quite an impression towards cinema and language, towards deciphering and interpreting text and towards counter perspectives of Hollywood Cinema. Returning to this past semester, the constant process of trying to decipher the language and text and noting choices in translations within the subtitles along with barely being able to decipher some of the dialogue (philosophical texts, slang, etc.) has been an incredibly layered viewing process. Indeed, at times I wished that these films were in a language unfamiliar to me so I could have muted that part of my brain! Because these already perplexing films were perplexing my brain on yet another level I found the viewing process incredibly overwhelming.
As I perused my viewing notes from this semester some interesting examples of language and translation choices were noted. Here are a few:
Mistranslation: Vivre sa vie (1962) as My Life to Live. I consider this title an alteration from the essence of this film. Although the existentialist pretext is that we have choices within our limitations and constraints, ultimately, are these choices truly ours? Within the strength of the possessive “my” this alters from a distanced “her.” It is this distanciation of “hers” or “his” or theirs” that I feel is so important in the title as opposed to an affirmative possessive of “mine.”
Omittence of information:
Most comically noted in Le mépris (1963), the assistant sums up Jeremy Prokosch’s phrase (“Only yesterday there were kings here, and now they’re going to build a Prisunic on this, my lost kingdom.”) with the translation: “C’est le fin du cinéma.”
Random phrases that I jotted down because I liked their words:
2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle (1966)
Question: “Qu’est-que c’est que langage?”
English: What is language?
Response: “It’s the house where one lives.”
Question: “Parler c’est à dire les mots.”
English: To speak is to say words.
Phrase: “…when the future is more present than the present.”
Phrase: “What I say in words is never what I am saying.”
Tout va bien (1972)
Phrase: “Tu a eu raison d’être peur.”
Subtitle: You should have known. (interesting translation/colloquialism: d’être peur= to be scared)
Phrase by Jerzy: “Isabelle, approach la lampe.”
Translation: Isabelle, move towards the lamp. (lamp as light).
On the foggy road at the end:
“The story is finished, it was finished before it started.”
Notre Musique (2004)
Phrase: “Pas un conversation juste, just un conversation.”
Translation: Not a fair (just) conversation, just a conversation.
Phrase: How can I talk if you don’t hear me?
Phrase: All of the power of an image can only be described through it.
Phrase: Nous sommes tous coupables.
Translation: We are all guilty.
Phrase: “The day was beautiful. You could see far, but not as far as Olga had done.”
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